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Agency or Industry? The ultimate PR question!

I am graduating in May of this year and there is a lot of talk about going into an agency profession or starting out in industry. I know I want to do social media management, but I don't know if I should start out in agency or industry. Is agency as scary and difficult as people say it is? Which career path did you take and would you have done it differently? I will probably end up trying both in my career, but I want to know which one you think would be better for getting the most experience and getting really good at something! #pr #agency #industry #jobsearch #socialmedia #publicrelations


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John D.’s Answer

In-house is a great option for communicators because you can work closely with the product developers, executives and team members who make the company special. A drawback potentially, though, is that you are focused solely on one company so things may be repetitive! A good communicator can vary the type of work she or he performs, thus making the role interesting: internal comms, PR, marketing communications, etc are all viable types of work to be done.


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John’s Answer

Excellent follow up question. Companies tend to hire the plurality of their employees through referrals or networking. With that in mind, it becomes obvious that applying to a job online stacks the odds against you. So, you need to start "networking" your way into a job instead of strictly applying. First, you can find people in your target job on Linkedin, and reach out to them for advice. "Hi [person], My name is Lauren, and you pretty much have my dream job. I was really hoping to connect with you and ask you for advice on what I can do to land a similar job". If you send that message to enough people, you will likely get a response and some time on their calendar to chat. You can try a similar thing with managers of that job. Second, you should look up events hosted by the companies you are interested in. A lot of good companies have talks or events that you can attend. Start attending these events and talk to as many people as you can. You will meet a lot of people from a lot of companies. Add them all on Linkedin and send them a note saying it was nice to connect. If they are in a relevant role or company, ask for a follow up time to talk. Third, be open minded. Maybe there is a company or job out there that you don't know about, that is perfect for you. To work at a name brand company, you may need to get some experience at an "ok" company and network your way up. Your career is a very long journey and the best thing you can do for your self is network and be open to any good opportunity that comes your way.

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John’s Answer

Hey Lauren,

Great question. I am in Staffing, which has a lot of similarities to PR/ Marketing. I started my career in an agency and have since moved "in house". I think the most important thing to consider is the company you are working for. If you have an offer from a top agency vs an "ok" company, go with the agency (or vice versa). Name brand on your resume means a lot long term. Also, the better the company, the better exposure and professional growth you should get (this isn't always true, but generally it is). Assuming the companies are both good companies, you have to consider what you want out of your career. An agency will pay well (not at first, but if you put in hard work and long hours) and you will get a lot of experience and responsibility quickly. An "in house" option will give you more stability, predictable hours and consistent career trajectory.

I personally did not like working at an agency, but learned a lot of skills and grew my professional skillset very quickly. They were 2 years well spent, and made me a much more valuable employee, now that I am "in house".

Hi John, this was an extremely well-written response and I appreciate the information. I am DYING to get a "brand name" on my resume. I just can't seem to get them to even interview with me. I'm turning in resumes left and right, but not hearing anything back -- even with very relevant experience! Anyway, thanks again for your response. -L Lauren K.

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Joey’s Answer

I'd suggest starting at an agency and going into the experience with an open mind. It's the best way to gain a diverse set of experiences which will help you learn what areas in the field you like and which ones you're less passionate about. Agencies also tend to be very collaborative, and you'll learn to work with a variety of different working styles, personalities that will provide helpful perspective in the long run.


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Rebecca’s Answer

I hope you landed in a good place! As you journey through your career as a PR professional, it is valuable to have BOTH agency and in-house experience on your resume. The order does not matter as much, though agency will give you the depth and breadth of experience that you can then apply to multiple work scenarios, plus you will learn customer service and client relations skills in the process. Good luck to you!


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